The London Daily Mail reported this morning (the report was officially confirmed this afternoon, local time) that the United Kingdom's electronic health record [EHR] program, called the National Programme for IT (NPfIT), aka Connecting for Health, was going to be "urgently" dismantled.
The NPfIT was once called by the National Health Service "the world's biggest civil information technology programme," and it will at least for now also hold the record for the largest failed IT program in the world (some elements of it—the Spine, N3 Network, NHSmail, Choose and Book, Secondary Uses Service, and Picture Archiving and Communications Service—were delivered). I have written about the travails of the NPfIT here and elsewhere for Spectrum over the past several years.
According to the Department of Health press release:
"The government today announced an acceleration of the dismantling of the National Programme for IT, following the conclusions of a new review by the Cabinet Office’s Major Projects Authority (MPA). The programme was created in 2002 under the last government and the MPA has concluded that it is not fit to provide the modern IT services that the NHS needs.
"In a modernised NHS, which puts patients and clinicians in the driving seat for achieving health outcomes amongst the best in the world, it is no longer appropriate for a centralised authority to make decisions on behalf of local organisations. We will continue to work with our existing suppliers to determine the best way to deliver the services upon which the NHS depends in a way which allows the local NHS to exercise choice while delivering best value for money."
Exactly how much has been spent on the NPfIT is not known. Estimates start at about £12.7 billion and go up from there. I doubt that the true cost will ever be known, especially the substantial developmental costs absorbed by the main suppliers and never billed for (often because they couldn't deliver what they promised).
The course forward now is to let local health authorities "exercise [EHR] choice while delivering best value for money."
What will happen to the £4 billion in contracts already signed with CSC and BT, the two main NPfIT suppliers, was not stated in the press release. However, as late as August, the NHS was arguing against canceling them both because of the IT expertise the suppliers provided as well as the cancellation costs built in to the contracts.
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.